Music site OurStage aiming for big second round


For those who our unfamiliar with OurStage, it’s a music site where fans vote for unsigned artists much in the same way as “American Idol.” Artists upload their material and fans can then search the site specific to a genre. Essentially, artists garner more exposure by competing in head-to-head competitions with each other. Fans judge the competitions and those artists who receive more votes move up on the site’s charts. This can also lead to prizes for both artists and fans from sponsors such as JetBlue and Paste Magazine. The site raised around $13 million from over 100 angel investors last April and is now aiming for $6 million in the second round.

The company says it has raised a total of $20 million in funding, including $3 million worth of this second round; it plans to raise the additional $3 million later this year, which CEO Ben Campbell says should be enough money to get OurStage profitable in 2010. (Campbell didn’t disclose who the site’s investors were, but a notable recent addition to its board of directors is former Sony Music CEO and Chairman Don Ienner).

The site serves three customer segments: indie artists that can upload their tracks and build a fan base; clubs and venues that promote their upcoming live shows; and users, that can find and rate new music.

Artists can now can now sell their tracks from their profile pages though, like any distributor, OurStage takes a cut. As OurStage partners with more and more companies involved with the music industry, the hope is that the artists will frequently land record deals. Some have already found success, most notably Plush Gun who signed with Tommy Boy Entertainment in 2008.

The site is a great way to discover new music, especially for those who want to help out unsigned artists. There are numerous genres to choose from and one can easily spend hours giving the songs a chance. The real kicker is that the fans have a say in which artists succeed or not.


Michael Johns: Hold Back My Heart

Nobody ever said you had to win American Idol to have a successful music career. In fact, each year more former contestants are finding a niche for themselves in some corner of the music business. Enter the latest of those, Season 7 alum Michael Johns, who used Idol as a springboard not just for popularity, but as a means to finally make the kind of music he wants—blue-eyed soul. Johns had been down the rock road before, his Australian roots bringing comparison to the late Michael Hutchence, among others. But it was when a phone call from his mom prompted Johns to follow his true passion, which was to sing the music he grew up on, and his path had suddenly been set out before him. Several years later, Johns has delivered a solid Downtown Music debut, Hold Back My Heart, with many of the songs being Johns’ co-writes with Dave Cobb. Falling somewhere between the music of his idols Otis Redding and Sam Cook and the sappy soul of guys like James Morrison, Johns has discovered a middle ground that could absolutely launch his career to lofty heights—though nothing is guaranteed in today’s music business. Coincidentally, the opening (and best) track was a song Morrison had a hand in, “Heart on My Sleeve.” Other standouts are the aching ballads “Fools Gold” and Heart is Weak” (the latter written by Diane Warren) as well as the bluesy boogie of “Little Bear.” As impressive as it is, though, Hold Back My Heart falls short of being a home run, but leaves plenty of room for growth. (LABEL: Downtown)

Michael Johns MySpace Page


Taylor Hicks: The Distance

It seems like a lifetime ago that Taylor Hicks was being crowned the champion of “American Idol” in its fifth season back in 2006. And while America clearly fell in love with this gray-haired wonder, Simon Cowell didn’t get it and neither did many critics, but Hicks’ debut album went platinum anyway. And while yours truly was a big fan of the material on that debut, the same can’t be said for Hicks’ latest, The Distance, released on his own Modern Whomp Records. There is no doubt this guy can sing with a trademark Joe Cocker-ish bluesy growl, but it’s pretty obvious that the recording budget was substantially less this time around, and the songs are mostly mediocre with performances at times reminiscent of cruise ship karaoke. Nevertheless, a few tracks do stand out, and Hicks is at his best when he tones things down for piano ballads – “What’s Right Is Right” and “Nineteen” are both heartfelt and destined for light rock radio repetition. And “Woman’s Got to Have It,” with fellow Idol alum Elliot Yamin, is a soulful and catchy closer. (LABEL: Modern Whomp)

Taylor Hicks MySpace Page


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